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USATF Track & Field Hall of Fame Q&A: Coach Bill Squires

10/31/2017
 

In advance of National Track & Field Hall of Fame induction ceremony on November 2 in New York City, USATF interviewed Class of 2017 inductees on their athletic careers and legacies.

 

Today's feature: Bill Squires

 

Coach Inductee Bill Squires (Boston, Massachusetts) was an innovative and groundbreaking distance coach who gained notoriety for his successes with marathoners Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley and Greg Meyer. His ability to individualize workouts separated him from the rest of the coaching fraternity. His Boston State squads won more than 40 team titles from 1965-78, and he had unprecedented success as founding coach of the Greater Boston Track Club.

 

How did you get started in track and field, and when did you first realize you wanted to be a coach?

I was born with a deformed heart. My parents thought I was going to die and not make it to nine years old. Right after WWII, one of these doctors that was one who didn’t just give medicine, he had people who lived long lives instead of just getting shots and not doing well. He believed in exercise. I was in his program, which was out of Reed Medical Center in New Jersey. I was lucky to have my life saved at that time. I didn’t go to school until I was 11 years old because my pulse rate was so low, and they thought I was going to have a heart attack during school. That was my existence until I got older, and then the doctor said exercise would be better for me than staying out of school.

 

My running career got me some notoriety. People wondered how this man with a bad heart could be a three-sport athlete. During the Korean War, they couldn’t believe I had a disability. I did two tours overseas. Some people treated me like a freak of nature for being able to do so much.

 

What were the keys to your success in coaching?

The big thing was I tried to use humor as part of my coaching philosophy. We had fun. I would take unknown people and go to big races and do well. A lot of other athletes were over-raced. We won a lot with local people from the Boston area. Boston is not an ideal place to train in the winter and early spring. Fortunately, I had a lot of friends in the coaching profession and we would wheel and deal to get rooms and other concessions so we could go to big meets.

 

My school had no dorms. It was just a teachers’ college. A lot of people I met around the country wanted ideas and material I would give them, and in exchange they would take care of us for meets from coast to coast.

 

They wanted to know how we were successful with unknown runners, but they didn’t know that I got my athletes access to places like Harvard when their facilities weren’t being used. We at least had a good indoor track to train on most days we needed it. There were a lot of doors left ajar at those gyms, just by coincidence. So even without scholarships or facilities, we were able to get things done. I would tell people I had an angel on my right shoulder who got it all done. My kids wanted to travel and they trained like hell to get them. They would train outdoors in the winter, and they were tough as steel.

 

All the school wanted was basketball and baseball and track, so I had track athletes all season long. We had a lot of fun. They still talk about how we used to be on the road all over the place. We rode a lot of Greyhound buses, and the kids loved it. When we have reunions they tell stories about how unbelievable the times were, the things we got away with.

 

What was different about your training and how was the sport different when you were coaching?

I combined speed and endurance in my training of distance runners. Europeans were all about endurance, and Americans were all about speed. I decided to combine the systems. Road racing became a new thing, coming out of New York, Philadelphia and Boston, and we used indoor tracks that were around basketball courts at YMCAs and other places. Outdoors we would use high school tracks in the spring. This was before all the big and fancy indoor tracks that you see today. Outdoor track was big then, with huge crowds. Indoors was an East Coast thing for the most part, but then it became a TV commodity. I had the GBTC, all with local people in Boston, and luckily we were able to train all year. Our club became kind of famous, even though some of our athletes came to track from other sports.

 

Who was the best athlete you coached?

Probably Bill Rodgers, name-wise, but Dick Beardsley came a long way and became an international success. I had to coach him from totally inexperienced, running up and down a country road, to being a national-caliber runner as a junior. He was a dairy farming kid. He worked for a farmer tending cows, which was a tough life. You have to milk them by 7 a.m. and again by 4 p.m. He was a tough, tough athlete because of all that.

 

What was your reaction to being inducted into the Hall of Fame?

I am very happy to be going into the Hall of Fame in the old Armory. I ran on the old track there. We thought it was wonderful back then. In Europe, I am in seven halls of fame. In the U.S., I am in four other ones, I think. I was popular in Europe because of the results my athletes produced. At one time in Europe, I had 42 of my former athletes who were coaches.




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